The Correct Way To Do Crunches

Yu Shing Ting
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Friday - December 01, 2010
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1A) Matt Jones demonstrates proper sit-up technique
1B) Matt Jones demonstrates proper sit-up technique

This holiday season, forget the stuffing and bring the six-pack - a six-pack of hard, cut-up abs, that is.

Believe it or not, everybody naturally has a six-pack, but most of us have unsightly fat that hides it.

Sit-ups and crunches are a great way to work on your abdominal muscles. And you don’t need a gym membership or fancy exercise equipment.

But make sure you do them correctly or you can be doing more harm than good to your body.

2B) Jones demonstrates proper crunch technique
2A) Jones demonstrates proper crunch technique

“One mistake most people do is they usually anchor their feet down (see picture 4A),” says certified personal trainer Matt Jones of Body Design by Matt. “The problem with that is you start using your hip flexors and you can injure your back pretty easily because it’ll pull on your spine.

“Also, you never want to put your hands behind the neck because you can injure your neck by pulling your head too hard. You always want to pull from you shoulders when you’re pulling forward. And don’t pull your chin into your chest (see 4B) because you can hurt the disc back there.”

According to Jones, the correct and simplest way to do a sit-up is to lie down on your back and bend your knees with your feet flat on the floor. Squeeze your glutes, which deactivates your hip flexor, and then from that position keep the stomach tight and try lift your upper body as high as you can.

3A) Correct hand positions when doing sit-ups
3B) Correct hand positions when doing sit-ups
3C) Correct hand positions when doing sit-ups

Then, go back all the way down and lightly tap the floor with your lower back, but do not relax.

Also, don’t go too fast. You want to make sure you’re taking the time to feel the muscles contract. Jones suggests taking three to five seconds to go up and three to five seconds to go down.

“If you don’t feel the muscle working, it’s probably not,” he says.

Also, depending on your fitness level, you can position your hands straight back (for advanced, see 3A), behind the ears (intermediate, see 3B), or forward or on the chest (beginners, see 3C).

4B) Avoid these techniques: anchoring your feet or pulling your chin into your chest
4A) Avoid these techniques: anchoring your feet or pulling your chin into your chest

For beginners, Jones also recommends starting with crunches because it’s “a lot easier.”

For crunches, the body position is the same as if you were to do situps and you’re working the same muscles, but you only pull forward about 3 inches (see 2A and 2B). Similar to sit-ups, you want to take your time, about three to five seconds going up and three to five seconds going down.

For these exercises, Jones recommends doing three sets of 12 to 15, two to three times a week, depending on your fitness level and exercise goals.

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